With summer fun ‘back to normal,’ families head into school year hoping to move beyond pandemic

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WATERTOWN — Despite inflation and gas prices double those before the COVID-19 pandemic began, many north country families enjoyed getting back to “normal” summer fun, and kids are back to their “normal” end-of-summer blues.

Under drizzling skies Monday, some families spent the day together before school starts, catching a movie, doing last-minute shopping or enjoying lunch in the Salmon Run Mall food court.

Although schools transitioned back to in-person classes last year, some still implemented mask rules and respected 3-foot social distancing between desks. This year, however, students will again learn like it’s 2019.

Karrie A. Thompson, of Oswego, said she’s glad her daughter Lillee, 15, is heading to school with everything “back to normal.”

Although Lillee said she “just hate(s) school in general,” she is glad to be able to be a sophomore in high school, “having dances back and football games — social things.”

Socially distanced desks — which she said felt “isolating” — and masks last year at Oswego High School kept the pandemic era in focus.

“I’m just excited for things to go back to normal because I haven’t had a normal school year since sixth grade,” Lillee said. “I didn’t have middle school, I had a computer.”

Getting back to normal started with the summer for the Thompsons, from weekends at Darien Lake to camping or spending time with family, higher gas prices and inflation in general didn’t deter them.

“We did quite a few things and it went by really, really fast,” Mrs. Thompson said. “We were busy.”

Acknowledging it was more expensive to travel with their family this summer, Kacie L. Robinson, of Brownville, took her kids to New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware because they felt it was important.

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